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DCC reliability/troubleshooting

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  • Member since
    May 2006
  • From: Palm Bay, FL
  • 25 posts
DCC reliability/troubleshooting
Posted by Rick Martin on Wednesday, March 5, 2008 7:19 PM
Hi all, looked thru all the threads on the DCC forum and didn't see what I was looking for possibly due to a senior moment but here goes. I don't have a layout except for about 6 ft of test track. I use a MRC Prodigy express and only rarely run any of my stuff. Just tried to run several of my BLI, P2K, etc. steam and diesel, all with sound and ALL of them will fire up and run with sound but only for about 1 or 2 inches. Each one then shuts down and goes dark/silent. After a few seconds each one will start up and do a repeat. All this without my trying the old 5 finger switcher method. I have double checked to make sure the steam engines all have their connectors firmly seated, and I've checked every engine to make sure wheels are clean along with the track and the connectors from the DCC unit to the track but no luck. At first I thought I might have a short in the first engine I checked but the next four I tried did the same thing. Kinda at a loss here. Each of the ones I've checked so far have factory installed decoders and sound. I believe they all have QSI decoders and all used to work fine. Haven't run any of them in about 4 or 5 months. It's probably something really simple and obvious but maybe someone with a lot more experience can point me in the right direction--Rick (PRR) Martin
"Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword has never encountered automatic weapons" General Douglas Macarthur Pennsy steam rules
  • Member since
    July 2003
  • From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
  • 13,757 posts
Posted by cacole on Wednesday, March 5, 2008 7:56 PM

It sounds to me like your MRC Prodigy Express doesn't have sufficient power output for sound locomotives and its internal overload breaker is kicking in and out.  You need to see if it can be upgraded to a higher amperage power supply.

It's also possible that you have used too small a gauge of wire between the Prodigy and your test track, and the wiring can't handle the load, which is subsequently causing the Prodigy to overheat and turn off.

  • Member since
    December 2005
  • From: East Granby, CT, USA
  • 505 posts
Posted by jim22 on Wednesday, March 5, 2008 8:15 PM

Are you putting the engines on the track one at a time (i.e. powering up the decoder in one engine at a time) or all at once.  I can't believe your system can't run a single sound engine unless your system has a problem.  Does the Prodigy Express have separate track and programming track outputs?  And is your test track wired to the track output, not the programming track?  To run the engines, you should have the track connected to the track outputs.

Jim 

  • Member since
    January 2004
  • 790 posts
Posted by Tilden on Wednesday, March 5, 2008 8:34 PM

  I agree with Jim.  I run the PA and the program track doesn't put out enough power to do anything.  I believe the Express is 1.75 amps, which should run three newer locos with sound.

Tilden 

  • Member since
    February 2005
  • From: Vancouver Island, BC
  • 22,634 posts
Posted by selector on Wednesday, March 5, 2008 10:07 PM
Suspect wire (broken?), contact problems, joiner problems, dirty track, or the MRC unit is faulty and cutting in and out with a warming circuit component opening and closing like a thermostat.
  • Member since
    May 2006
  • From: Palm Bay, FL
  • 25 posts
Posted by Rick Martin on Thursday, March 6, 2008 11:39 AM
Hi everybody, thanks for your replies to my question. I've checked all the wiring for breaks or short circuits with nothing found. Since the test track is only about two feet from the power supply I've been using 18 ga. wire with no problem until now. I've also only test run engines one at a time although I've been able to MU and consist two diesels with no problem. I thought I might have an internal problem with some of the engines so I tested the dual mode equipped units on DC and they ran with no problem. Long story short----I thought it might be something really basic (I was right). I cleaned my test track with a brightboy cleaner but after cleaning it this morn. with some alcohol pads everything ran great. I believe the heavier engines like the diesels ran ok on the dirt just because of their weight. My BLI M1a mountain, K4 Pacific and all 3 of my diesels (RSD-15, Trainmaster, RS-27) must have been heavy enuff to break thru the crud. Even though the track looked clean it wasn't. Will just use alcohol pads to clean the track since I have tons of them available. Thanks for the info. All your suggestions are completely valid and should be part of anyone's troubleshooting. Just don't forget to clean the track. DUH I feel like a dummy.....Rick Martin--Pennsy fan
"Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword has never encountered automatic weapons" General Douglas Macarthur Pennsy steam rules
  • Member since
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  • From: Eastern Shore Virginia
  • 3,290 posts
Posted by gandydancer19 on Monday, March 10, 2008 1:33 PM

In my experience, track that is super clean, like with alcohol, becomes dried out and the contact problem can return. I put just a very small amount of WD-40 on each rail and let the loco spread it around on the layout. In your case with the test track, just spread it on the rails with one finger and wipe the excess off with a different finger. Most light oils, like WD-40, improve electrical contact. If I start having trouble with a loco, I clean the wheels, lube the gears, and apply a small amount of WD-40 on the wiper contacts and run the wheels through a bit of WD-40 on the rails. I do have to make the distinction between dirty track and wheels versus dry electrical contacts, but most of the time the above procedure takes care of the problem.

Hope this helps,

Elmer.

Elmer.

The above is my opinion, from an active and experienced Model Railroader in N scale and HO since 1961.

(Modeling Freelance, Eastern US, HO scale, in 1962, with NCE DCC for locomotive control and a stand alone LocoNet for block detection and signals.) http://waynes-trains.com/ at home, and N scale at the Club.

  • Member since
    January 2002
  • From: Portland, OR
  • 3,119 posts
Posted by jfugate on Monday, March 10, 2008 2:42 PM

Actually, totally dry rails cause more electrical sparking, which pits the rails/wheels and creates a lot of the black gunk you see on the rails over time.

I've found if you clean the rails with mineral spirits and then don't try to get the rails absolutely dry, but leave a microscopic film of the mineral spirits on the track -- the track stays cleaner longer. The ever-so-slight oily film from the mineral spirits actually reduces the sparking, so the rail gets pitted less and there's less black gunk formed since there's less sparking. Smile,Wink, & Grin [swg] 

Another trick if your track is already clean is to moisten a cloth with some mineral spirits and rub down about 4 or 5 feet of track with the cloth. Leave a good amount of the mineral spirits on the track and then run trains around your layout, letting the wheels of your equipment spread the mineral spirits around the layout.

If you turn down the lights, you will see less sparking, which translates directly into less pitting of the rails and wheels -- and less black gunk being generated. 

Joe Fugate Modeling the 1980s SP Siskiyou Line in southern Oregon

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